Liz Holliday

Communications Specialist

Exchanging Biometrics For School Lunches

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — If students in North Adams want something from the lunch line, they now must leave an impression of their finger.

The North Adams School District is now scanning fingers to identify lunch accounts in all of its schools this year, beginning next week at Greylock Elementary School.

It’s called Biometric Identification, and the district says many schools across the nation are beginning to use it instead of pin numbers or identification cards, both of which can be easily forgotten or stolen by students.

And while recent computer hackings may be fresh in parent’s minds, the district says the setup is completely encrypted and sure to protect student information — it even allows parents to track their child’s lunch purchases online.

But some parents in the district worry it is an invasion of privacy and are choosing to opt their children out.

North Adams is the first in Berkshire County to get the system, which cost about $10,000, according to Nicholas.

The director of North Adam’s Food Services, Corbett Nicholas, explains that the encrypted program works off of a grid to identify specific finger prints, converting it to binary code to be paired with the students lunch account.

The point of it all? Enabling children to always have access to their accounts, even when they forget pass codes or identification cards, and allowing parents to view the accounts in real time on the web.

And though Nicholas admits he is aware of some parent concern, he says the finger prints are never stored.

“It’s not a finger print in any way, no finger print can be recreated from the template that this software and scanner create,” he said.

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